could be described as a coming of age novel, but certainly not in the usual sense. The story follows Brooke D’Angelo from the mid-teens to mid-twenties. Brooke is the musically gifted rebellious younger daughter of a noveau riche family. Her father, Vincent D’Angelo, is a leading corporate lawyer in New York, dedicated to making money and playing golf. Her status-obsessed mother, Constance, is dedicated to spending her husband’s money. The older daughter, Anne-Marie, is being groomed for a socially advantageous marriage, and Vincent, Jr. for an Ivy League school.
Brooke’s parents pay her little attention and do not recognize her talent. Only through the intervention of her aunt, Katherine Ross, herself a retired diva, is the girl’s musical genius recognized and nurtured. This results in escalating conflict between Brooke and her mother. Matters reach a devastating climax when Constance D’Angelo turns Brooke out on the street with only the clothes on her back. The next six months are the most traumatic of the girl’s life, and healing Brooke’s heart is one of the central themes of the novel. Given the trauma inflicted by her family, Brooke must learn to open her heart to love.
But The Lark Ascending is more than the story of a dysfunctional family. The novel is set in the New York music world with all its cutthroat politics, outsized personalities, and amazing creativity. Katherine Ross uses her contacts to secure Brooke a private teacher at the Juilliard School and takes her niece to performances at the Metropolitan Opera. Her senior year the Academy for the Performing Arts presents Carmen and Brooke sings the lead. The audience includes movers and shakers from the New York opera world.
During Brooke’s final year at the Juilliard, composer Henry Stockwell enters the story. Brooke is selected to sing the lead in the world premier of Stockwell’s opera, Jackie after Dallas. Long before opening night the production attracts intense media attention, and the opera’s success catapults Brooke to stardom. Her relationship with Henry Stockwell develops beyond the professional and they become lovers.
Stockwell and Katherine Ross help Brooke overcome her fear of loving and being loved. This is another major theme of the novel and culminates when Brooke and Stockwell force the last psychological barriers and her heart is free. These final chapters are set against the dramatic backdrop of Brooke’s early career including contracts from the Met and London’s Royal Opera.